Wednesday, November 30, 2011

POETRY BREAK #4: "The Quitter" by Robert W. Service

"The Quitter" by Robert W. Service

Albie's note: Need some kind of a pick-me-up? We’ve all probably had moments of very real discouragement in our lives... moments when we feel seriously tempted to pack it in and just give up. As hokey as it sounds, it really is precisely at those times we should simply  grit our teeth and keep truckin'. Proverbs tells us  "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again" [Prov. 24:16]

Quitting is the easy thing to do. It’s that "keep-going-on" thing that’s hard. According to this old poem, your reaction to difficulties determines your mettle...  Drive on!

The Quitter

When you’re lost in the Wild, and you’re scared as a child,
      And Death looks you bang in the eye,
And you’re sore as a boil, it’s according to Hoyle
      To cock your revolver and... die.
But the Code of a Man says: “Fight all you can,”
      And self-dissolution is barred.
In hunger and woe, oh, it’s easy to blow...
      It’s the "hell-served-for-breakfast" that’s hard.

“You’re sick of the game!” Well, now, that’s a shame.
      You’re young and you’re brave and you’re bright.
“You’ve had a raw deal!” I know — but don’t squeal,
      Buck up, do your damnedest, and fight.
It’s the plugging away that will win you the day,
      So don’t be a piker, old pard!
Just draw on your grit; it’s so easy to quit:
      It’s the keeping-your-chin-up that’s hard.

It’s easy to cry that you’re beaten — and die;
      It’s easy to crawfish and crawl;
But to fight and to fight when hope’s out of sight —
      Why, that’s the best game of them all!
And though you come out of each gruelling bout,
      All broken and beaten and scarred,
Just have one more try — it’s dead easy to die,
      It’s the keeping-on-living that’s hard.

ROBERT W. SERVICE  [1874-1958]
from the book RHYMES OF A ROLLING STONE, 1912

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Count your blessings-- YOU are RICH!


From the standpoint of material wealth, Americans have difficulty realizing how rich we are. However, going through this little “mental exercise” suggested by Robert Heilbroner can help us to count our blessings. Imagine doing the following, and you will see how daily life is for as many as a billion people in the world.

1. Take out all the furniture in your home except for one table and a couple of chairs. Use blankets and pads for beds.

2. Take away all of your clothing except for your oldest dress or suit, shirt or blouse. Leave only one pair of shoes.

3. Empty the pantry and the refrigerator except for a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a few potatoes, some onions, and a dish of dried beans.

4. Dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, and remove all the electrical wiring in your house.

5. Take away the house itself and move the family into the tool shed.

6. Place your “house” in a shantytown.

7. Cancel all subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, and book clubs. This is no great loss because now none of you can read anyway.

8. Leave only one radio for the whole shantytown.

9. Move the nearest hospital or clinic ten miles away and put a midwife in charge instead of a doctor.

10. Throw away your bankbooks, stock certificates, pension plans, and insurance policies. Leave the family a cash hoard of ten dollars.

11. Give the head of the family a few acres to cultivate on which he can raise a few hundred dollars of cash crops, of which one third will go to the landlord and one tenth to the moneylenders.

12. Lop off twenty-five or more years in life expectancy.

By comparison, how rich we are! And with our wealth comes responsibility to use it wisely, not to be wasteful, and to help others.

Think on these things.

-Steve Williams, from THE GOSPEL TRACT HAVESTER, November 2008

Cool Stuff From Library Books #11: "THANKSGIVING DAY--1941" by Stephen Vincent Benet

 by Stephen Vincent Benet
There are many days in the year that we celebrate, but this one
is wholly of our earth. Three hundred and eighteen years ago,
long before we were ever a nation, a handful of men and women who
wished to live for an idea and were willing to die for it, first
set this day apart as a day of thanks. They were neither rich nor
powerful, those men and women of Plymouth; they had bought the
very ground they stood on by the deaths of their nearest and
dearest. After three years of toil and suffering, they had made a
small settlement and planted a few cleared fields. Behind them
lay the ocean; before them, the untamed forest. They had come a
long way to stand between sea and forest; they had left all ease
and security behind them. Even so, they could not know whether
their experiment in freedom would succeed or fail; they could not
even be sure that Plymouth Colony would live through the next
winter. It is hard for us to realize that; it was what they
faced, under all their courage. Nevertheless, cut off from all
they had known, alone beyond our knowledge, they gave thanks in
humble sincerity for God's mercies and the gift of corn.

Today, one hundred and thirty million Americans keep the day they
first set apart. We all know what Thanksgiving is--it's turkey
day and pumpkin pie day--the day of the meeting of friends and
the gathering of families. It does not belong to any one creed or
stock among us, it does not honor any one great man. It is the
whole family's day--the whole people's day--the day at the turn
of the year when we can all get together, think over the past
months a little, feel a sense of harvest, a kinship with our
land. It is one of the most secure and friendly of all our
feasts. And yet it was first founded in insecurity, by men who
stood up to danger. And that spirit is still alive.

This year it is and must be a sober feast. And yet, if we know
our hearts, as a people, we can be grateful--not in vainglory or
self-satisfaction, but for essential things. Let us speak out
some of the things that are in our hearts.

We are grateful to those before us who made this country and
fought for it, who hewed it out of the wilderness and sowed it
with the wheat of freedom. We are grateful to all Americans, of
all kinds and sorts and beliefs, who stood up on their hind legs
and protested against injustice, from the first plantings till
now. We are grateful to the great men, present and past, who have
risen from our earth to lead us, and to the innumerable many
whose names are not in the histories but without whose laughter
and courage, endurance and resolution, all our history would have
been in vain.

We are grateful for our land itself--not for its material
resources or the plenty of its fields--but for its vast diversity
under the great bond of union. We are grateful for Connecticut
elm and Georgia pine, for the big stars over Texas and the bread
of the Middle West. We are grateful to little towns with common
place names where people get along with each other, not because
they are told to, but just because they believe in getting along.
That's the way we like to have it, and mean to have it. We are
grateful because we believe that all those who would confuse and
divide us with counsels of class hatred, race hatred, despair and
defeat know little of the temper of our people. We are grateful
to all the others, to every good neighbor, to each man and woman
of good will.

We are grateful to those who guard the far-flung outposts of our
nation--to the men on the lonely sea patrols, on the high patrols
of the air. To the men in the camps, to the men on the ships, to
the men of the air, to all those who keep watch and guard, we pay
our tribute today. Nor can that tribute be paid in fine words
alone. These are our own men we have summoned--it is the business
of all of us to back them with the firm resolution of a united
nation. And that shall be done.

Most of all we are grateful, under God, for the spirit that walks
abroad in this land of ours--the spirit that has made us and kept
us free. It is many years indeed since men first came here for
freedom. The democracy we cherish is the work of many years and
many men. But as those first men and women first gave thanks, in
a dark hour, for the corn that meant life to them, so let us give
thanks today--not for the little things of the easy years but for
the land we cherish, the way of life we honor, and the freedom we
shall maintain.
From the book: We Stand United and other Radio Scripts [1940-1942] 
Albie's note: 
I like old Benet's thoughts in this radio address. 
Thankfulness is vital to any nation of people.  
Here's hoping you and yours have a great holiday!
"You say, 'If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.' 
You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, 
you would not be satisfied if it were doubled." 
--Charles Haddon Spurgeon  

Monday, November 14, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "The Valiant Ones" by Norman A. Fox

"The Valiant Ones" by Norman A. Fox

A collection of eleven classic pulp-era western stories dealing with the courageous men and women-- including explorers, soldiers, and settlers-- who opened the American West...

"The cowards never started and the week died on the road,
 And all across the continent the endless campfires glowed.
 We´d taken land and settled-but a traveler passed by-
 And we´re going West tomorrow-Lordy, never ask us why!"
From WESTERN WAGONS by Stephen Vincent Benet 

The above quote stands in the flyleaf of Norman A. Fox's 1957 collection ONLY THE VALIANT.  Its words form a fitting introduction to this collection of Fox's best magazine western fiction from 1946 to 1951.  

Assembled by the author himself a scant 2 years before his untimely death at age 48, this is one of the better single author collections of western fiction I have ever encountered [and I rather avidly collect western short story collections.]

What makes any short story collection great is first and foremost variety.  In fact, this one thing is what keeps most western story collections sadly separated from a cohesive overall quality.

This collection, however, is just about perfect in assembling stories devoted to conveying different aspects of the frontier experience.  "Saddlebag Sawbones" tells of a range-land physician standing off a group of outlaws; "The Fitness Of Sean O'Fallon" tells of an unlikely hero of the original Pony Express; "Homesteader's Wife" realistically depicts the bleakness, sorrows, and occasional joys of  a small time rancher's better half; and "Only The Dead Ride Proudly" is a much-anthologized tale set against the real-life backdrop of the river steamboat that carried the wounded from Custer's last stand to Fort Abraham Lincoln in record time.

I really like Fox's writing, by the way.  He may not be a  prose master along the lines of all-time western greats like Ernest Haycox, Dorothy Johnson or Verne Athanas, but his ability to write descriptions of setting and landscape, as well as his rendering of action scenes, is easily as competent as his pulp-era contemporaries Luke Short and Peter Dawson [and yes, that's a pretty substantial compliment coming from me.]

Beyond the writing itself, there is much to be said in favor of Fox's compelling story-telling, which is filled with realistic situations and well-drawn characters.  A really nice character study is "Old Man Owlhoot," a "modern" western story about a reporters's search for the truth about a Montana old-timer who claims he rode with Kid Curry in the wild days of the northwest.  It is an unusually heart-felt story succeeds in suggesting the inherent dignity that can be found in even the simplest characters that populate our world.

So all in all I highly recommend THE VALIANT ONES. If you like western short stories, It is an entertaining collection of tales that is well worth finding and checking out. 


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

POETRY BREAK #3: "Watermelon Time"


by James Whitcomb Riley

Old watermelon time is a-comin' round again,
   And they ain't no man a-livin' any tickleder'n me,
For the way I hanker after watermelons is a sin--
   Which is the why and wherefore, as you can plainly see.

Oh! it's in the sandy soil watermelons does the best,
   And it's there they'll lay and waller in the sunshine and
       the dew
Til they wear all the green streaks clean off of their
  And you bet I ain't a-findin' any fault with them; are you?

There ain't no better thing in the vegetable line;
  And they don't need much 'tendin', as every farmer
And when their ripe and ready for to pluck from the vine,
  I want to say to you they're the best fruit that grows.

It's some likes the yellow-core, and some likes the red.
  And it's some says "The Little Californy" is the best;
But the sweetest slice of all I ever wedged in my head,
  Is the old "Edinburg Mountain-sprout," of the west...

You don't want no pumpkins nigh your watermelon vines--
  'Cause, some-way-another, they'll spile your melons,
I've seed 'em taste like punkins, from the core to the rinds,
   (Which may be a fact you have heard of before.)

But your melons that's raised right and 'tended to with
  You can walk around amongst 'em with a parent's
     pride and joy,
And thump 'em on the heads with as fatherly a air
  As if each one of them was your little girl or boy.

I joy in my heart just to hear that rippin' sound
  When you split one down the back and jolt the halves
     in two,
And the friends you love the best is gethered all around--
  And you says unto your sweetheart, "Oh, here's the
     core for you!"

And I like to slice 'em up in big pieces fer 'em all,
  Especially the childern, and watch their high delight
As one by one the rinds with their pink notches fall,
  And they holler for some more, with unquenched

Boys take to it natural, and I like to see 'em eat--
  A slice of watermelon's like a frenchharp in their
And when they "saw" it through their mouth such music
     can't be beat--
  'Cause it's music both the spirit and the stomach

Oh, there's more in watermelons than the purty-colored
  And the overflowin' sweetness of the water squished
The up'ard and the down'ard motions of a feller's teeth,
  And it's the taste of ripe old age and juicy childhood

For I never taste a melon but my thoughts fly away
  To the summertime of youth; and again I see the dawn,
And the fadin' afternoon of the long summer day,
  And the dusk and dew a-fallin', and the night a-comin'

And there's the corn around us, and the lispin' leaves and
And the stars a-peekin' down on us as still as silver
And us boys in the watermelons on our hands and knees,
  And the new-moon hangin' o'er us like a yellow-cored

Oh! it's watermelon time is a-comin' round again,
  And they ain't no man a-livin' any tickleder'n me,
For the way I hanker after watermelons is a sin--
  Which is the why and wherefore, as you can plainly see.

Taken from the collection

Sunday, November 6, 2011



by Vachel Lindsay

Albie's note: Vachel Lindsay [1879-1931] was a great and undervalued American poet whose raucous, almost musical verse is totally unique in American letters.  A mystical and dreamy fellow who died a suicide in 1931, Lindsay enjoyed great fame in his lifetime but is all but forgotten today.  I love this poem about childhood and books, which  first appeared in The Red Cross Magazine in 1919 under the title "The Cave Of Becky Thatcher."  I especially like the phrase "the soul's deep Mississippi."

Hope you enjoy it, too.

Inscribed to Bruce Campbell, who read Tom Sawyer with me in the old home 

Beneath Time's roaring cannon
Many walls fall down.
But though the guns break every stone,
Level every town: —
Within our Grandma's old front hall
Some wonders flourish yet: —
The Pavement of Verona,
Where stands young Juliet,
The roof of Blue-beard's palace,
And Kublai Khan's wild ground,
The cave of young Aladdin,
Where the jewel-flowers were found,
And the garden of old Sparta
Where little Helen played,
The grotto of Miranda
That Prospero arrayed,
And the cave, by the Mississippi,
Where Becky Thatcher strayed. 

On that Indiana stairway
Gleams Cinderella's shoe.
Upon that mighty mountainside
Walks Snow-white in the dew.
Upon that grassy hillside
Trips shining Nicolette: —
That stairway of remembrance
Time's cannon will not get —
That chattering slope of glory
Our little cousins made,
That hill by the Mississippi
Where Becky Thatcher strayed. 

Spring beauties on that cliff side,
Love in the air,
While the soul's deep Mississippi
Sweeps on, forever fair.
And he who enters in the cave,
Nothing shall make afraid,
The cave by the Mississippi
Where Tom and Becky strayed.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

POETRY BREAK #1: "Lament of the Frontier Guard"

Lament of the Frontier Guard
by Ezra Pound

[translated from the Chinese of 'Rihaku,' actually Li Bai (Chinese: , Lǐ Bái or Lǐ Bó; lived 701 – 762)]

Albie's note: I have a real love/hate thing for the American poet, critic, editor, and all-around genius Ezra Pound, [1885-1972]  the Idaho native who is often considered the father of modernist verse. On one hand, he was a real nut-job... an expatriated and arrogant "tortured artist" type who ended up a senile recluse in Italy muttering anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.  

On the other, more interesting, hand, he was a true literary genius who left a body of striking and powerful poetry I always seem to "re-discover" at various stages of my life.  A good Pound poem  is completely unique and rewarding, and the following example, from his classic 1915 volume Cathay, is no exception.  Hope you enjoy this great poem about, among other things,  the eternal perplexity of war.

Lament of the Frontier Guard

By the North Gate, the wind blows full of sand,
Lonely from the beginning of time until now!
Trees fall, the grass goes yellow with autumn.
I climb the towers and towers
to watch out the barbarous land:
Desolate castle, the sky, the wide desert.
There is no wall left to this village.
Bones white with a thousand frosts,
High heaps, covered with trees and grass;
Who brought this to pass?
Who has brought the flaming imperial anger?
Who has brought the army with drums and with kettle-drums?
Barbarous kings.

A gracious spring, turned to blood-ravenous autumn,
A turmoil of wars; men, spread over the middle kingdom,
Three hundred and sixty thousand,
And sorrow, sorrow like rain.
Sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning,
Desolate, desolate fields,
And no children of warfare upon them,
No longer the men for offence and defence.
Ah, how shall you know the dreary sorrow at the North Gate,
With Rihoku's name forgotten,
And we guardsmen fed to the tigers.

By Rihaku

CHARLES SPURGEON takes on "Christian War-Mongers"... good article by Laurence Vance

Charles Spurgeon
on Christian War Fever

by Laurence M. Vance

We know all too well about Christian war fever — that sickening blind worship of the state that has elevated our Recent and Current Presidents to Messiah status and seeks to justify his immoral, unscriptural, unconstitutional war in Iraq by incessantly repeating the mantras "obey the powers that be" and "God is a God of war." But who is Charles Spurgeon and why should we care what he said about war?

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834—1892) was an English Baptist minister who served as pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London from 1861 until his death. But Spurgeon was no ordinary minister. He was a pastor, a preacher, a teacher, an author, an editor, and the overseer of a pastor's college, a Christian literature society, and an orphanage. He is still widely revered today among Baptists (and others as well) as one of the greatest Baptist ministers in history.

Spurgeon preached his first sermon as a teenager and, in 1854, was called to the pastorate of the historic New Park Street Church, Southwark, London. During his thirty-eight-year tenure, the church increased from 232 to over 5,000. During the remodeling of the Park Street chapel to house the growing congregation, Spurgeon preached at the 5,000-seat Exeter Hall, a public auditorium. But because the remodeled chapel was still too small to accommodate the crowds, the church began construction of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, which sat 5,500 and had standing room for 500 more. In the interim, Spurgeon preached to thousands at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall. He was truly one of the most popular preachers in history. When he died in 1892, 60,000 people filed past his casket in the Tabernacle.

Spurgeon lives today through his sermons. From 1855 until his death, his Sunday morning sermons were published weekly. By 1865, Spurgeon's sermons were selling 25,000 copies every week. They would eventually be translated into more than twenty languages. The sermons were then collected in one volume and reissued at the end of each year in book form. After Spurgeon's death, the series continued until 1917 using his Sunday evening sermons. The six volumes of the New Park Street Pulpit (1855—1860) and the fifty-seven volumes of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (1861—1917) contain 3,561 sermons, 25 million words, and fill 41,500 pages. Many of these volumes are available online, and most are in print.

Unlike some Baptist preachers today who shamelessly serve as spokesmen or apologists for Bush and his "splendid little war" in Iraq, Spurgeon was not the least bit excited about war and war fever.

Spurgeon on War

Spurgeon's comments on war can be found in his sermons on a variety of topics. He rarely preached a sermon that was specifically about war. His observations about war are overwhelmingly negative:

Long have I held that war is an enormous crime; long have I regarded all battles as but murder on a large scale. ("India's Ills and England's Sorrows," September 6, 1857, Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens).

So combustible are the materials of which this great world is made, that I am ever apprehensive of war. I do not account it wonderful that one nation should strive against another, I account if far more wonderful that they are not all at arms. Whence come wars and fightings? Come they not from your lusts? Considering how much lust there is in the world, we might well conceive that there would be more war than we see. Sin is the mother of wars; and remembering how plentiful sin is, we need not marvel if it brings forth multitudes of them. We may look for them. If the coming of Christ be indeed drawing nigh, then we must expect wars and rumors of wars through all the nations of the earth. ("The God of Peace," November 4, 1855, New Park Street Chapel).

There is yet one more point which I must mention here in which the gospel is the best help to man. We must remember to-day, that there are districts of the earth where the ground is yet red with blood. There are sad portions of our globe that as yet must have the name of Aceldama, the field of gore, there are spots where the horse-hoof is splashed with blood; where the very carcasses of men are the food of ravens and of jackalls, the mounds of Balaclava are as yet scarcely green, and the spots where rest the relics of our own murdered sisters and brothers are not covered with the memorial stone. War has ravaged whole districts; even in these late times the dogs of war are not yet muzzled. Oh! what shall we do to put an end to war? Mars, where is the chain that shall bind thee like Prometheus, to the rock? How shall we imprison thee for ever, thou cruel Moloch; how shall we for ever chain thee? Behold here is the great chain, that which one day is to bind the great serpent; it has the blood-red links of love. The gospel of Jesus Christ the crucified one, shall yet hush the clarion of war, and break the battle-bow in sunder. ("The Cry of the Heathen," April 25, 1858, Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens).

It is astonishing how distance blunts the keen edge of anything that is disagreeable. War is at all times a most fearful scourge. The thought of slain bodies and of murdered men must always harrow up the soul; but because we hear of these things in the distance, there are few Englishmen who can truly enter into their horrors. If we should hear the booming of cannon on the deep which girdles this island; if we should see at our doors the marks of carnage and bloodshed; then should we more thoroughly appreciate what war means. But distance takes away the horror, and we therefore speak of war with too much levity, and even read of it with an interest not sufficiently linked with pain. ("A Present Religion," May 30, 1858, Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens).

Better far for us to have famine than war. From all civil war and all the desperate wickedness which it involves, good Lord deliver us; and if thou smitest us as thou hast done, it is better to fall into the hand of God than into the hand of man. ("Christian Sympathy," November 9, 1862, Metropolitan Tabernacle).

Oh! that God would put an end in the world to all wars between nations, as well as all strifes between individuals. ("The Fruits of Grace," January 21, 1872, Metropolitan Tabernacle).

Spurgeon on Peace

Like Thomas Jefferson, Spurgeon did not just speak about the evils of war without also relating the blessings of peace:

He is the God of peace, for he is the restorer of it; though wars have broken out through sin. He is the preserver of peace. Whenever I see peace in the world, I ascribe it to God, and if it is continued, I shall always believe it is because God interferes to prevent war. ("The God of Peace," November 4, 1855, New Park Street Chapel).

Have you not noticed how magnificently peace winneth its reprisals at the hand of war? Look through this country. Methinks if the angel of peace should go with us, as we journey through it, and stop at the various ancient towns where there are dismantled castles, and high mounds from which every vestige of a building has long been swept, the angel would look us in the face, and say, "I have done all this: war scattered my peaceful subjects, burned down my cottages, ravaged my temples, and laid my mansions with the dust. But I have attacked war in his own strongholds and I have routed him. Walk through his halls. Can you hear now the tramp of the warrior? Where now the sound of the clarion and the drum?" The sheep is feeding from the cannon's mouth, and the bird builds his nest where once the warrior did hang his helmet. As rare curiosities we dig up the swords and spears of our forefathers, and little do we reck that in this we are doing tribute to peace. For peace is the conqueror. It hath been a long duel, and much blood hath been shed, but peace hath been the victor. War, after all, has but spasmodic triumphs; and again it sinks — it dies, but peace ever reigneth. If she be driven from one part of the earth, yet she dwelleth in another; and while war, with busy hand, is piling up here a wall, and there a rampart, and there a tower, peace with her gentle finger, is covering over the castle with the mees and the ivy, and eating the stone from the top, and letting it lie level with the earth. . . . I think this is a fine thought for the lover of peace; and who among us is not? Who among us ought not to be? Is not the gospel all peace? ("The Desolations of the Lord, the Consolation of His Saints," April 28, 1858, Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens, on behalf of the Baptist Missionary Society).

Spurgeon on Imperialism in the Name of Christianity

Imperialism is bad enough, but it is even worse when it is done in the name of Christianity. Unlike Christian pragmatists today who think that U.S. wars and interventions will be a boon to Christianity, Spurgeon was not deceived:

The church, we affirm, can neither be preserved nor can its interests be promoted by human armies. We have all thought otherwise in our time, and have foolishly said when a fresh territory was annexed to our empire, "Ah! what a providence that England has annexed Oude," — or taken to itself some other territory — "Now a door is opened for the Gospel. A Christian power will necessarily encourage Christianity, and seeing that a Christian power is at the head of the Government, it will be likely that the natives will be induced to search into the authenticity of our revelation, and so great results will follow. Who can tell but that, at the point of the British bayonet, the Gospel will be carried, and that, by the edge of the true sword of valiant men, Christ's Gospel will be proclaimed?" I have said so myself; and now I know I am a fool for my pains, and that Christ's church hath been also miserably befooled; for this I will assert, and prove too, that the progress of the arms of a Christian nation is not the progress of Christianity, and that the spread of our empire, so far from being advantageous to the Gospel, I will hold, and this day proclaim, hath been hostile to it.

But I have another string to my bow, I believe that the help of Government would have been far worse than its opposition, I do regret that the [East India] Company sometimes discourages missionary enterprise; but I believe that, had they encouraged it, it would have been far worse still, for their encouragement would have been the greatest hindrance we could receive. If I had to-morrow to go to India to preach the Gospel, I should pray to God, if such a thing could be, that he would give me a black face and make me like a Hindoo; for otherwise I should feel that when I preached I should be regarded as one of the lords — one of the oppressors it may sometime be added — and I should not expect my congregation to listen to me as a man speaking to men, a brother to brother, a Christian full of love, but they would hear me, and only cavil at me, because even my white face would give me some appearance of superiority. Why in England, our missionaries and our clergymen have assumed a kind of superiority and dignity over the people; they have called themselves clergy, and the people laity; and the result has been that they have weakened their influence. I have thought it right to come amongst my fellow men, and be a man amongst men, just one of themselves, their equal and their friend; and they have rallied around me, and not refused to love me. And I should not expect to be successful in preaching the gospel, unless I might stand and feel that I am a brother, bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh. If I cannot stand before them thus, I cannot get at their hearts. Send me, then, to India as one of the dominant ruling race, and you give me a work I cannot accomplish when you tell me to evangelise its inhabitants. In that day when John Williams fell in Erromanga, ye wept, but it was a more hopeful day for Erromanga than the day when our missionaries in India first landed there. I had rather go to preach to the greatest savages that live, than I would go to preach in the place that is under British rule. Not for the fault of Britain, but simply because I, as a Briton, would be looked upon as one of the superiors, one of the lords, and that would take away much of my power to do good. Now, will you just cast your eye upon the wide world? Did you ever hear of a nation under British rule being converted to God? Mr. Moffat and our great friend Dr. Livingstone have been laboring in Africa with great success, and many have been converted. Did you ever hear of Kaffir tribes protected by England, ever being converted? It is only a people that have been left to themselves, and preached to by men as men, that have been brought to God. For my part, I conceive, that when an enterprise begins in martyrdom, it is none the less likely to succeed, but when conquerors begin to preach the gospel to those they have conquered, it will not succeed, God will teach us that it is not by might All swords that have ever flashed from scabbards have not aided Christ a single grain. Mahommedans' religion might be sustained by scimitars, but Christians' religion must be sustained by love. The great crime of war can never promote the religion of peace. The battle, and the garment rolled in blood, are not a fitting prelude to "peace on earth, goodwill to men." And I do firmly hold, that the slaughter of men, that bayonets, and swords, and guns, have never yet been, and never can be, promoters of the gospel. The gospel will proceed without them, but never through them. "Not by might." Now don't be fooled again, if you hear of the English conquering in China, don't go down on your knees and thank God for it, and say it's such a heavenly thing for the spread of the gospel — it just is not. Experience teaches you that, and if you look upon the map you will find I have stated only the truth, that where our arms have been victorious, the gospel has been hindered rather than not; so that where South Sea Islanders have bowed their knees and cast their idols to the bats, British Hindoos have kept their idols, and where Bechuanas and Bushmen have turned unto the Lord, British Affairs have not been converted, not perhaps because they were British, but because the very fact of the missionary being a Briton, put him above them, and weakened their influence. Hush thy trump, O war; put away thy gaudy trappings and thy bloodstained drapery, if thou thinkest that the cannon with the cross upon it is really sanctified, and if thou imaginest that thy banner hath become holy, thou dreamest of a lie. God wanteth not thee to help his cause. "It is not by armies, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." ("Independence of Christianity," August 31, 1857, Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens).

While, however, we shall anxiously watch the contest, it will be quite as well if we mingle in it ourselves. Not that this nation of England should touch it; God forbid. If tyrants fight, let them fight; let free men stand aloof. Why should England have aught to do with all the coming battles? As God has cut us off from Europe by a boisterous sea, so let us be kept apart from all the broils and turmoils into which tyrants and their slaves may fall. ("War! War! War!" May 1, 1859, Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens).

Spurgeon on Christianity and War

If there is anyone who should be opposed to strife and bloodshed it is the man that names the name of Christ. Spurgeon considered the spirit of war to be absolutely foreign to the spirit of Christianity:

The Church of Christ is continually represented under the figure of an army; yet its Captain is the Prince of Peace; its object is the establishment of peace, and its soldiers are men of a peaceful disposition. The spirit of war is at the extremely opposite point to the spirit of the gospel. ("The Vanguard and Rereward of the Church," December 26, 1858, Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens).

Far be it from us to lay the blood of men at God's door. Let us not for one moment be guilty of any thought that the sin and the iniquity which have brought war into the world is of God. ("The Desolations of the Lord, the Consolation of His Saints," April 28, 1858, Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens, on behalf of the Baptist Missionary Society).

What saves us from war at this moment? What influence is it that is always contrary to war, and always cries for peace? Why, it is the Christian element among us which counts anything better than bloodshed! ("Jesus — ‘All Blessing and All Blest'," February 1, 1891, Metropolitan Tabernacle).

The Lord's battles, what are they? Not the garment rolled in blood, not the noise, and smoke, and din of human slaughter. These may be the devil's battles, if you please, but not the Lord's. They may be days of God's vengeance but in their strife the servant of Jesus may not mingle. We stand aloof. Our kingdom is not of this world; else would God's servants fight with sword and spear. Ours is a spiritual kingdom, and the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual, and mighty through God, to the pulling down of strongholds. ("War! War! War!" May 1, 1859, Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens).

War is to our minds the most difficult thing to sanctify to God. The genius of the Christian religion is altogether contrary to everything like strife of any kind, much more to the deadly clash of arms. . . . Now I say again, I am no apologist for war, from my soul I loathe it, and I do not understand the position of a Christian man as a warrior, but still I greatly rejoice that there are to be found at this present day in the ranks many of those who fear God and adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour. ("A Peal of Bells," July 7, 1861, Metropolitan Tabernacle).

If men receive Christ, there will be no more oppression: the true Christian does to others as he would that they should do to him, and there is no more contention of classes, nor grinding of the faces of the poor. Slavery must go down where Christianity rules, and mark you, if Romanism be once destroyed, and pure Christianity shall govern all nations, war itself must come to an end; for if there be anything which this book denounces and counts the hugest of all crimes, it is the crime of war. Put up thy sword into thy sheath, for hath not he said, "Thou shalt not kill," and he meant not that it was a sin to kill one but a glory to kill a million, but he meant that bloodshed on the smallest or largest scale was sinful. Let Christ govern, and men shall break the bow and cut the spear in sunder, and burn the chariot in the fire. It is joy to all nations that Christ is born, the Prince of Peace, the King who rules in righteousness. ("Joy Born at Bethlehem," December 24, 1871, Metropolitan Tabernacle).

Spurgeon on True Christian Warfare

As I have previously pointed out, there is no denying the fact that the Bible likens a Christian to a soldier. But as Spurgeon points out, the Christian's true warfare is a spiritual one:

First of all, note that this crusade, this sacred, holy war of which I speak, is not with men, but with Satan and with error. "We wrestle not with flesh and blood." Christian men are not at war with any man that walks the earth. We are at war with infidelity, but the persons of infidels we love and pray for; we are at warfare with any heresy, but we have no enmity against heretics; we are opposed to, and cry war to the knife with everything that opposes God and his truth: but towards every man we would still endeavour to carry out the holy maxim, "Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you." The Christian soldier hath no gun and no sword, for he fighteth not with men. It is with "spiritual wickedness in high places" that he fights, and with other principalities and powers than with those that sit on thrones and hold sceptres in their hands. I have marked, however, that some Christian men — and it is a feeling to which all of us are prone — are very apt to make Christ's war a war of flesh and blood, instead of a war with wrong and spiritual wickedness. Have you never noticed in religious controversies how men will fall foul of each other, and make personal remarks and abuse each other? What is that but forgetting what Christ's war is? We are not fighting against men; we are fighting for men rather than against them. We are fighting for God and his truth against error and against sin; but not against men. Woe, woe, to the Christian who forgets this sacred canon of warfare. Touch not the persons of men, but smite their sin with a stout heart and with strong arm. Slay both the little ones and the great; let nothing be spared that is against God and his truth; but we have no war with the persons of poor mistaken men. ("The War of Truth," January 11, 1857, Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens).

But now let us observe that the warfare which the Christian carries on, may be said for his encouragement, to be a most righteous warfare. In every other conflict in which men have engaged, there have been two opinions, some have said the war was right, and some have said it was wrong; but in regard to the sacred war in which all believers have been engaged, there has been only one opinion among right-minded men. When the ancient priest stirred up the Crusaders to the fight, he made them shout Deus vult — God wills it. And we may far more truly say the same. A war against falsehood, a war against sin, is God's war; it is a war which commends itself to every Christian man, seeing he is quite certain that he has the seal of God's approval when he goes to wage war against God's enemies. Beloved, we have no doubt whatever, when we lift up our voices like a trumpet against sin, that our warfare is justified by the eternal laws of justice. Would to God that every war had so just and true an excuse as the war which God wages with Amalek — with sin in the world! ("The War of Truth," January 11, 1857, Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens).

Spurgeon on Christian War Fever

Spurgeon's remarks about war can be found not only in his sermons, but also in the monthly magazine he edited, The Sword and the Trowel. In an article from April of 1878, "Periodical War Madness," Spurgeon issued his most scathing denunciation of Christian war fever:

A friend who was some long time ago prostrated by African fever assures us that he still feels it once a year. The enemy was repulsed in its first assault, but it annually resumes the attack, and will probably do so as long as our friend survives. This curious phenomenon has its parallel in the moral world, for certain evils may be subdued and apparently driven out of a man, and yet they return with great fury and resume their former sway. The like is true of races and nations. At intervals the world goes mad, and mad in the very same direction in which it had confessed its former insanity, and resolved never to rave again. England, at set seasons, runs wild with the war lunacy, foams at the mouth, bellows out "Rule Britannia," shows her teeth, and in general behaves herself like a mad creature: then her doctors bleed her, and put her through a course of depletion until she comes to her senses, settles down to her cotton-spinning and shop-keeping, and wonders what could have ailed her. A very few months ago it would have been difficult to discover an apologist for the Crimean war, and yet in this year of grace 1878 we find ourselves surrounded by a furious crowd whose intemperate language renders it almost a miracle that peace yet continues. If they do not desire war, they are mere bullies; but if they do desire it, they certainly go the right way to bring it about.

One stands amazed at the singular change which has come over the populace, who, if they are faithfully represented by their journals, have learned nothing by experience, but long to throat their burned hand again into the fire. The mistakes of former days should minister to the wisdom of the present generation, for history is a nation's education; it is, therefore, to the last degree, unfortunate when the people relapse into their acknowledged errors, and repeat the blunders of their sires. If our country has been fairly depicted by the advocates for war, its condition is disappointing to the believer in progress, and alarming to the patriot who gazes into the future. We are still pugnacious, still believers in brute force, still ready to shed blood, still able to contemplate ravaged lands and murdered thousands without horror, still eager to test our ability to kill our fellow men. We are persuaded that a large portion of our fellow citizens are clear of this charge, but the noisier, if not the more numerous party, clamour for a warlike policy as loudly as if it involved no slaughter, and were rather a boon to mankind than an unmitigated curse. A mysterious argument, founded upon the protection of certain mythical "British interests" is set up as an excuse, but the fact is that the national bull-dog wants to fix his teeth into somebody's leg, and growls because he does not quite see how to do it. The fighting instinct is asking to be gratified, and waxes violent because it is denied indulgence.
 It is cause for gratitude that the cool heads among us are now sufficiently numerous to act as a check upon the more passionate. We are not now all mad at the same time, nor are quite so many bitten by the ban-dog. When last our people barked at the Russian bear, Messrs. Cobden and Bright and a small band of sensible men entered a protest which only enraged the fighting party; but now, thank God, the advocates of peace are heard, and even though abused, their power is felt. They may be unpopular, but they are certainly influential; their opponents have to stand upon the defensive, and exhibit some show of apologetic argument, whereas aforetime they laughed the peace-man to scorn as un-English, fanatical, and idiotic. Though our people have not advanced as we could desire, yet there has been progress, and that of a solid kind. Statesmen are now found who forego considerations of party to obey the higher dictates of humanity; ministers of the gospel now more frequently denounce the crime of carnage and pray for peace and among the masses there are juster ideas of the lamentable results of war. We are bound to be thankful even for small mercies, and on that ground we rejoice in the faintest sign of advance towards truthful estimates of bloodshed; but we are sorry to temper our rejoicing with a large measure of regret that our fellow countrymen, ay, and fellow Christians are still so far from being educated upon this most important subject. Many who did run well apparently, and were theoretical lovers of peace, lost their heads in the general excitement and went over to the enemy; some of them, fearful lest English prestige, alias British swagger, should suffer; others afraid that Russia, by capturing Constantinople, would block our road to India; and a third class, carried away by unreasoning sympathy with the dominant feeling around them. Times of feverish excitement test our attachment to great principles, and are probably intended by providence to act as a gauge as to their real growth; viewing the past few months in that light, there has been cause for congratulation, but greater reason for regret.

What is the cause of these periodical outbreaks of passion? Why does a peaceful nation bluster and threaten for a few months, and even commence fighting, when in a short time it sighs for peace, and illuminates its streets as soon as peace is proclaimed? The immediate causes differ, but the abiding reason is the same — man is fallen, and belongs to a race of which infallible revelation declares "their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways, and the way of peace they have not known." Wars and fightings arise from the inward lusts of the corrupt heart, and so long as human nature is unrenewed, battles and sieges, wars and rumours of wars will make up the history of nations. Civilized man is the same creature as the savage; he is washed and clothed, but intrinsically he is the same being. As beneath the Russian's skin you find the Tartar, so the Englishman is the savage Briton, or plundering Saxon, wearing broadcloth made from the wool of the sheep, but with a wild fierce heart within his breast. A prizefight a few years ago excited universal interest, and would do so again if it exhibited gameness and pluck, endurance and mettle. As a race we have these qualities and admire them, and it is idle to deny that if we were unrestrained by education and unrenewed by grace, there is not a man among us but would delight to see, or at least to read of, a fair stand-up fight, whether between fighting men or fighting cocks. We are not cruel, and therefore the brutal contests of Roman gladiators, or the disgusting scenes of Spanish bull-fights, would never be tolerated among us; but we are a fighting nation, and are never better pleased than when we see an exhibition of spirit and courage. Doubtless some good runs side by side with this characteristic of our countrymen, and we are far from wishing to depreciate bravery and valour, but at the same time this is one of the difficulties which the peace advocate must not fail to recognize. A tamer people might more readily adopt our tenets, not from conviction, but from force of circumstances; we find a warrior race slow to learn the doctrine of "peace on earth, good will toward men"; nor may this discourage us, for such a race is worth instructing, and when thoroughly indoctrinated will be mighty to spread abroad the glorious truth. Rome covets England because she knows it to be the centre and pivot of the world, and we covet it also for the self-same reason: let Great Britain once declare from her heart that her empire is peace, and the whole earth shall be in a fair way to sit still and be at rest. We are far from this consummation at present, nor need we wonder when we remember the hearts of men and the passions which rage therein, and especially when we note the peculiarly warlike constituents of which our nation is composed. Observe the bold dash of the Irish, the stern valour of the Scotch, the fierce fire of the Welsh, and the dogged resolution of the English, and you see before you stormy elements ready at any time to brew a tempest.

What, then, is to be done? Shall we unite with the clamorous patriots of the hour and sacrifice peace to political selfishness? Or shall we in silence maintain our own views, and despair of their ever being received by our own countrymen? There is no need to take either course: let us believe in our principles, and wait till the present mania comes to an end. We would persuade all lovers of peace to labour perseveringly to spread the spirit of love and gentleness, which is indeed the spirit of Christ, and to give a practical bearing to what else may become mere theory. The fight-spirit must be battled with in all its forms, and the genius of gentleness must be cultivated. Cruelty to animals, the lust for destroying living things, the desire for revenge, the indulgence of anger — all these we must war against by manifesting and inculcating pity, compassion, forgiveness, kindness, and goodness in the fear of the Lord. Children must be trained with meekness and not with passion, and our dealings with our fellow-men must manifest our readiness to suffer wrong rather than to inflict it upon others. Nor is this all: the truth as to war must be more and more insisted on: the loss of time, labour, treasure, and life must be shown, and the satanic crimes to which it leads must be laid bare. It is the sum of all villainies, and ought to be stripped of its flaunting colours, and to have its bloody horrors revealed; its music should be hushed, that men may hear the moans and groans, the cries and shrieks of dying men and ravished women. War brings out the devil in man, wakes up the hellish legion within his fallen nature, and binds his better faculties hand and foot. Its natural tendency is to hurl nations back into barbarism, and retard the growth of everything good and holy. When undertaken from a dire necessity, as the last resource of an oppressed people, it may become heroic, and its after results may compensate for its immediate evils; but war wantonly undertaken, for self-interest, ambition, or wounded pride is evil, only evil, and that continually. It ought not to be smiled upon as a brilliant spectacle, nor talked of with a light heart; it is a fitter theme for tears and intercessions. To see a soldier a Christian is a joy; to see a Christian a soldier is another matter. We may not judge another man, but we may discourage thoughtless inclinations in the young and ignorant. A sweeping condemnation would arouse antagonism, and possibly provoke the very spirit we world allay; while quiet and holy influence may sober and ultimately overcome misdirected tendencies. Many of our bravest soldiers are on the side of peace, and in the present crisis have spoken out more boldly on the right side than we might reasonably have expected of them. This must be duly acknowledged and taken into account, and we must speak accordingly. Rash advocates mar the cause they love, and this also is not to be wondered at, since a portion of the same fighting nature is in them also, and leads them to be furious for peace, and warlike on behalf of love. The temptation to fight Christ's battles with the devil's weapons comes upon us all at times, and it is not marvellous that men speak of "fighting Quakers," and "bigots for liberality." We must guard our own spirits, and not lend ourselves to the service of strife by bitter contentions for peace; this, we fear, has not always been remembered, and the consequences have been more lamentable than would at first sight appear: opponents have been needlessly created, and prejudices have been foolishly confirmed. Let us profit by all the mistakes of zealots, and at the same lime let us not become so extremely prudent as to lose all earnestness. The cause is a good one, let us urge it onward with blended vigour and discretion.

Seeing that the war-spirit is not slain, and only at the best wounded, we must in quiet times industriously inculcate the doctrines of peace. The work begun must be deepened and made more real, and where nothing has been taught we must begin in real earnest. It is wise to keep the evil spirit down when it is down. We had better shear its locks while it sleeps, for if once the giant awakes it snaps all arguments as Samson broke the new ropes. As a drunkard should be reasoned with in his sober intervals, and not when he is in liquor, so must our nation be instructed in peace when it's fit of passion is over, and not when it is enraged. Have we well and wisely used the period since the last great war? Perhaps not; and it may be that the late ebullition has come to warn us, lest we beguile ourselves into the false notion that a millennium has commenced, and dream that men are about to beat their spears into pruning-hooks. Peace teaching, which is but another name for practical gospel teaching, must be incessant, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" must resound from our pulpits, and be practised in our homes. "Let us love one another, for love is of God," must be more in our hearts and lives. Above all we must evangelize the masses, carry the truth of the loving God to their homes, preach Jesus and his dying love in their streets, and gather men to his fold. All soul-saving work is a blow at the war-spirit. Make a man a Christian, and he becomes a lover of his race; instruct him, and he becomes ashamed of blows and battles; sanctify him, and he sweetens into an embodiment of love. May the Holy Ghost do such work on all sides among our countrymen, and we shall see their outbursts of rage become less frequent and less violent, for there will be a strong counteracting influence to keep down the evil, and to restrain it when in a measure it breaks loose.

Charles Spurgeon was not alone, for as I have pointed out elsewhere, Baptist ministers in America during the nineteenth century held the same opinions about Christianity and war. Christian agitation or apology for war is an aberration from the principles of Christianity, the folly of which is exceeded only by its appalling misuse of Scripture.

Modern conservative, fundamentalist, and evangelical Christians, all of whom might claim him as one of their own, have much to learn from Spurgeon, not only for his example of an uncompromising and successful Christian minister, but also for his consistent opposition to war and Christian war fever.

Laurence M. Vance is a freelance writer and an adjunct instructor in accounting and economics at Pensacola Junior College in Pensacola, FL. His new book is Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State.

Read his stuff. If you can recieve it, t'll give you MUCH to think on.